Australia — Victoria will have an SMS bushfire warning system from next summer – for Telstra customers.
Anyone living in and travelling through bushfire-prone areas in Victoria will receive a warning text message on days of high fire risk – as long as they are with Telstra.
Acting Premier Peter Ryan says the state has reached an agreement with Telstra to send the warning messages from December 1, 2012 to anyone carrying a Telstra mobile phone within the high-risk region.
The previous message-warning system, in effect since December 2009, sent an alert only to people with a billing address in the area.
Mr Ryan said the location-based emergency warning system was a world first.
“It’s a massive advance,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
The technology would be particularly relevant in tourist hot-spots, he said.
“In my own electorate through Gippsland there are many coastal areas … which as a matter of course only have several hundred people (living) within them but in the summer season in particular these areas swell to a population of literally tens of thousands.”
Victoria is the first state or territory to reach agreement with a carrier to set up a location-based system.
The hope is that the system will be operational across Australia by the end of 2012.
Federal Emergency Management Minister Robert McClelland urged other states to follow Victoria’s lead.
“The Commonwealth government, along with the Victorian government, have ensured that this national project will happen, by providing funding on behalf of the nation,” Mr McClelland said in a statement.
Mr Ryan said Victoria had abandoned plans to negotiate collectively with other states.
“If we had waited for the other jurisdictions to all fall into line this may never have happened.”
But he said Victoria had been unable to secure a start date in the current bushfire season during negotiations with Telstra.
“We would love of course to have these things operate as from the time these great ideas are first conceived but the practical fact is commercial negotiations have occurred,” he said.
The Victorian government will continue to seek a deal with carriers Optus and Vodafone.